Medication, support can help kick smoking

November 4, 2012 / / — Most smokers realize that tobacco is harmful and nearly 35 million smokers want to quit each year. Unfortunately, more than 85 percent of those who try to quit on their own relapse, most within a week, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (

Why is kicking the habit so difficult?

“Nicotine is the No. 1 most-used addictive drug in America,” said Melissa Hinton, a doctorate nurse practitioner at Intermountain St. George Pulmonary Medicine. Hinton is a subspecialist in addiction and an expert on smoking cessation.

Next to heroin and crack cocaine, nicotine is ranked third-highest addictive substance in America because it is more available and somewhat socially acceptable,” Hinton said. “It provides a high almost immediately. However, a nicotine high lasts about 20 minutes, prompting smokers to light up another cigarette.”

Understanding the way cravings work can help when trying to quit.

“Studies show that if you can stave it off for three minutes, the craving will have subsided,” Hinton said. Finding a substitute to satisfy the desire for tobacco can help. “One quick alternative is to take a five-minute walk. Activity actually increases endorphins faster than a cigarette and you keep the high longer. If you have tried to quit before and haven’t been successful, prescription medications can help and are recommended. However, most people who quit smoking successfully have gone cold turkey.”